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Steel Industry Fights Back

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October 1, 2014


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Steel Industry Fights Back

Steel Industry Fights Back

With all the talk these days about aluminum replacing steel in the auto industry, steelmakers had to be releasing a collective shudder. For the last year or so, aluminum has been on track to replace steel body panels, components and even the entire body of the 2015 Ford F-150 pickup truck. Consequently, stocks in aluminum companies have been climbing.

The incentive to convert to aluminum is it’s weight. Automakers are scrambling to meet tightening fuel economy targets, which will come into full effect in 2025. In order to use more fuel, most automakers are either introducing hybrid type vehicles, more efficient engines, or shaving weight off of their vehicles. Aluminum is significantly lighter than steel, and doesn’t rust as a bonus. In the case of the F-150, switching to aluminum will shave about 700 pounds off of the truck’s curb weight.

The steel industry isn’t taking all of this lightly. In fact, they’re fighting back. ArcelorMittal, a well known steelmaker has announced that steel is still a viable option when seeking to reduce the weight of vehicles. The company released the findings of a design study this week, where the company was able to reduce the weight of a pickup truck by 23 percent, or 383 pounds, through the use of advanced high-strength steels. These materials are available today here in North America.

By combining this weight reduction with powertrain improvements, the U.S. government’s 2025 fuel efficiency goals can be met. It would also allow automakers to avoid the huge expense and hassle of converting their operations to work with aluminum.

“It is possible to design all types of lightweight vehicles and to get them to the 2025 targets, and you can do it in steel,” said Blake Zuidema, AM’s director of automotive product applications. “Other materials can provide lower overall weight [than high-strength steel], but you don’t need that,” Zuidema added.

The F-150’s weight loss isn’t entirely related to the use of an aluminum body. Some of the losses have been achieved from the truck’s underbody as well as seats and other interior components.

The study was conducted in response to Ford’s move to use other metals, and the positive results are allowing the steel industry to fight back. Supplying high-volume mainstream vehicles are an important part of the steel industry’s business.

In the study, ArcelorMittal began with a 2009 truck, and completely redesigned it’s underbody with a variety of high-strength steel grades, slashing it’s weight. Originally the truck’s underbody weighed 1,649 pounds, and after the redesign, it weighed only 1,265 pounds.

By Linda

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